After more than 20 years of gaming history, Warcraft is finally heading to the big screen. Video games don't have a great track record in film, with plenty of great games becoming box office flops — and there's been plenty of talk about whether Warcraft will finally break the video game "curse."
But whether critics love it or hate it, we're pretty sure fans will have a blast seeing the ongoing struggle between orcs and humans finally hit the cinema stage. And after collecting all those apexis crystals for him, I am personally looking forward to seeing Khadgar get kicked around on screen.
But, introductory paragraph aside, we're not talking about the Warcraft movie today. With the release just a few days away, Warcraft is already old news. Instead, let's look ahead to the next video game movie — here are five games that would make for serious summer blockbusters.
"Wait," I hear you saying. "Overwatch has a story?" Yes. Yes it does, but the problem is that it's hardly in the game at all. If you read through character descriptions, watch the game's animated shorts and trailers, and keep up with the in-universe news announcements Blizzard posts to the Overwatch website, you can piece together a vast sci-fi universe.
Here's the synopsis: the world was living in an unprecedented age of prosperity and technological advancement, driven in part by the Omnics. These intelligent robots were meant to help humanity... and for a time they did. But then something happened and the Omnics revolted, leading to what was called the Omnic Crisis. The Overwatch team was formed to combat the Omnics and, after the Crisis was quelled, disbanded in a sea of controversy over their tactics.
It's a crazy story that features spies, robots, time travel, and a colony of intelligent gorillas on the moon. You can't tell me that wouldn't make an amazing movie — especially considering the awesome short films Blizzard is already making for the game (like the one above).
Has there ever been a game quite like 1998's Grim Fandango? This, the last of the great LucasArts adventure games, is a bizarre blend of film noir references, the brightly colored style of Day of the Dead, and perhaps a bit of Terry Gilliam, too (I'm looking at you, Brazil). It's an odd mix, but the game absolutely makes it work.
Story-wise, the game follows travel agent Manny Calavara as he helps souls through the underworld by selling them travel packages, of course. When he realizes his co-workers are scamming clients out of their hard-earned eternal rewards... and so he goes off to rescue Meche, who was out through the Land of the Dead on foot when she should have been reserved a spot on the luxurious Number Nine train. Along the way, he zooms through a petrified forest in a hot rod, starts his own night club, works on his beat poetry skills and... well, you get the idea. The game's a bit odd, but delightfully so.
The story and setting, already heavily inspired by film noir cinema, could translate easily to the big screen. (And if you haven't had the pleasure of playing this classic, a remastered version is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.)
This game is Stephen King with a sort of X-Files twist, creating a supernatural thriller that still feels grounded in reality (mostly). The premise is that novelist Alan Wake (that's you) has been pulled into one of his books — namely one that he can't remember writing. During the day, Wake struggles with a reality where his wife is missing and he's the prime suspect for her disappearance. At night, he's chased by shadowy creatures that can only be defeated by the light.
The juxtaposition of a quaint, small town setting and the shadowy figures of Alan's nightmares is a good one — and the game already makes great use of light to create compelling, cinematic-style visuals. The only downside is that if handled poorly — and so many video game movies are — this could turn into a trope-filled horror movie... which would be a shame when the game was full of tension and excitement.
The hardest part of adding BioShock to this list was really figuring out which BioShock to include — both the original game and Infinite have fantastic stories (with a sharp edge of social commentary) and gorgeous settings. Would the wrecked underwater city of Rapture or the soaring sky-city of Columbia look better on screen? In the end, I had to go with the original. Playing through Rapture's art deco corridors, lit by bright neon lights and the blue glow of the sea is impossible to forget — and it's something I'd love to see in high-def on an IMAX screen. Combine that memorable setting with BioShock's top-notch story and you've got a ready made movie that's more than just another summer popcorn flick.
Of course Hollywood has already tried to bring BioShock to life, though the project appears to be dead in the water. Could a BioShock film still be in the works? Can we start a Kickstarter campaign? Come on, world, let's make this one happen.
Set in the Wyoming wilderness, Firewatch is just plain beautiful, full of peaceful summer sunsets and golden fields. You play a firewatchman, watching for trouble in an isolated tower in the forest with only a radio to connect you to the outside world. It's a quiet job until... well, I won't give it away. But I will say that for a game without an iota of combat, Firewatch is packed with tension.
That's the sort of tension that could drive an intense psychological thriller on-screen, though Firewatch's ending might not make for the kind of dramatic cinema Hollywood likes. Even so, the short, three-hour game would translate pretty neatly into a movie.
Why didn't my favorite game make the list?
I tossed a lot of great games off this list because they're already in development — though "in development" sometimes just means that a studio owns the rights to make a film. That includes Mass Effect (somewhere in development with Legendary Pictures), Assassin's Creed (due out this December), The Witcher (due out in 2017), Half-Life (which J.J. Abrams is working on), and plenty of others.
Sure, any of them could wind up dying somewhere in development. They may go from script to script, director to director, studio to studio before they become close to being made. Warcraft has been in development since 2006 — first it was slated for a 2009 release, then a 2011 release, and now it's finally landed in 2016. Any of these in development projects could h ave just as long of a timeline, so let's not give up hope. Some of these great games may eventually come to cinema screens... though they probably won't show up soon.